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Thanks Jeff, for the last 5 years!
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Murray State's Jonathan Stark became the Racers 10th winner of the Ohio Valley Conference Male Athlete of the Year when the league announced the news from the home office in Brentwood, Tennessee.

Out of Munford, Tenn., Stark recently capped a record-setting senior season for the Racers that saw the team win the OVC regular season and tournament titles and compete in the NCAA Tournament for the 16th time in school history.

Stark marks the Murray State's 10th winner of the award, following recent recipients Cameron Payne (2015) and Isaiah Canaan (2012). All 10 of MSU's winners have come from men's basketball. Gary Hooker was the Racers' first winner in 1980. Jeff Martin (1988, 1989) and Popeye Jones (1991, 1992) are MSU's only two-time winners.

The honor for Stark comes after he led the OVC in scoring for a second-straight season with an average of 21.4 points per game. His scoring average put him 19th in NCAA D-I.

Stark earned a trio of awards that few in the game ever get enjoy. He was named the OVC Preseason Player of the Year, OVC Player of the Year and OVC Tournament MVP. He was the first to sweep the awards in the OVC since the tournament MVP was first given in 1994. Stark's trophy case became as crowded as former Racer greats and current NBA players Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne. Stark was the 16th MSU player to earn Associated Press All-America honors as an honorable mention selection. He was also named to the CollegeInsider Lou Henson All-America Team, USBWA All-District IV Team, NABC All-District Team and College Mid-Major Madness First Team.

Stark's resume from the 2017-18 season was unmatched in the OVC. He made 110 3-point shots to break his Murray State record from the 2016-17 season and rank 14th in the nation. His average of 3.44 made threes per game was eighth nationally and first in the OVC. Stark's 685 points was tops in the OVC and in the top-40 in the nation and if it were possible after his outstanding junior season, Stark was better as a senior, because he became more efficient. He took 78 fewer shots than he did as a junior and his overall field goal percentage rose from .438 to .451. His improved efficiency was proved in the KenPom.com national offensive rating as he went from third as a junior to first in the OVC.

Game by game, Stark produced consistently, even as opponents tried to contain him. He had 19 games in the season of 20 or more points and four of 30 or more. He scored a season-high 36 points at home against Southeast Missouri on 9-of-16 from the field and 4-of-7 from the 3-point line. He hit a season-high seven 3-pointers against Jacksonville State and had nine games of five or more.

Stark was also lethal from the free throw line. He tied a Murray State record with a perfect 14-of-14 against Southeast Missouri and he had four games of reaching the free throw line for 10 or more attempts. He set the Murray State record when he made 39 consecutive free throws and ranked 17th in the nation and second in the OVC with a percentage just shy of 90 percent.

He also shared the basketball with his teammates. Stark's 3.9 assists per game ranked him sixth in the OVC.

Stark's defensive performance improved as a senior as well. He was seventh in the OVC with 1.74 steals per game and many times was given the responsibility of stopping the opponent's best guard.

Stark was an iron man and peak physical condition helped him avoid injuries. He started every game for the Racers and was on the floor for more than 90 percent of the minutes MSU played in 32 games. Five times, Stark played all 40 minutes in a game.

Apart from outstanding individual achievement, Stark will also go down in Murray State history for being on a team that won its 26th OVC regular season championship and first since 2015. Having to face four of the top teams on the road at the outset of the OVC season, the Racers went 2-2 and then ran the table to finish 16-2 and deliver the title. The Racers were the favored No. 1 seed in the OVC Tournament and again, came up big when it was needed most. In the OVC semifinals, the Racers held off Jacksonville State for a 70-63 win. In the championship clash with Belmont, the Racers overcame a three-point halftime deficit and outscored the Bruins 39-19 in the second half to win the OVC title 68-51. The win sent the Racers to their 16th NCAA Tournament appearance. MSU represented the OVC in San Diego and fell in a first round game with West Virginia.

The sum of Stark's career in the collegiate game became nationally known as the Racers kept on piling up wins. He was the only active player in NCAA D-I with 2,220 points and 570 assists when combining his stats from Tulane and Murray State. He also owns the best two-year run at MSU leaving as the all-time two-year scorer with 1,408 points.

Stark was selected to compete in the 2018 State Farm College 3-Point Championship at the Final Four in San Antonio. He placed second in the friendly competition after leading the field in the first two rounds of the event when he hit 40-of-50 shots. He was the second Racer to be invited to the event, following Isaiah Canaan who was the first in 2013. Stark was also invited to play in the prestigious Portsmouth Invitational.

 

OVC Male Athlete of the Year Award Winners

1979-80 Gary Hooker

1987-88 Jeff Martin

1988-89 Jeff Martin

1990-91 Popeye Jones

1991-92 Popeye Jones

1994-95 Marcus Brown

1997-98 De'Teri Mayes

2011-12 Isaiah Canaan

2014-15 Cameron Payne

2017-18 Jonathan Stark

Here are scores from Thursday night's district tournament games featuring local teams.

Baseball

7th District Championship
Caldwell County 10, Madisonville 3

Softball

7th District Championship
Madisonville 5, Caldwell County 0
Kentucky men's basketball junior Brad Calipari is headed for a second tour with the Global Sports Academy. After an eight-day basketball trip to Croatia last summer, Calipari and his team will travel to three European countries this year. 

Calipari and the Global Sports Academy will begin play on Friday during their eight-day tour through Belgium, Germany and Holland.

Calipari is one of 10 collegiate players from eight different schools traveling to Europe this week. The team, coached by Bucknell assistant Joe Meehan, will play five games against professional teams from the region, including Cologne and Leverkusen in Germany and Leuven.

During the trip, Calipari and his teammates will also have the opportunity to attend cultural events and see historical sites throughout the three countries.

A year ago, Calipari enjoyed success in Croatia for a four-game tour. He averaged 14.3 points, 6.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. He opened the week by scoring 17 points, dishing out seven assists and hauling in four rebounds.

His stat line for the second game included 13 points, six assists and two rebounds. In game three, he notched eight points, six assists and three rebounds. His most productive game came during the last outing of the trip. Calipari scored a trip-high 19 points and matched highs with seven assists and four rebounds.

Global Sports Academy was incorporated in 1991 to create and arrange athletic competition between equally matched teams at all levels internationally. Promoting international goodwill and a better understanding between nations through sports is the major goal of the organization.

Calipari has made 26 appearances during his first two seasons at Kentucky. He's scored 11 points and made three 3-pointers. The Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, native has also hauled in five boards and dished out a pair of assists.

Eugenio Suarez wanted to hit one deep enough to get the runner in from third base. He got all of a hanging slider — and four runs with one swing.

Suarez hit a grand slam off Ivan Nova, who dropped his sixth straight start against Cincinnati, and Jesse Winker added a solo shot Thursday as the Reds pulled away to a 5-4 victory over the slumping Pittsburgh Pirates.

Suarez's third career grand slam off Nova (2-5) went farther than he'd hoped, landing a few rows deep in the left field seats.

"If there's a guy on third and less than two outs, I'll at least try to get a sacrifice fly," said Suarez, who leads the team with 38 RBIs. "It was a breaking ball down and it. I was able to catch it right at the break."

The Reds took two of three in the series, completing a 3-4 homestand. Pittsburgh has dropped five of six.

Luis Castillo (4-4) gave up four hits in six innings, including a two-run homer by David Freese . Castillo has allowed two earned runs or less in each of his last five starts.

Austin Meadows hit his second homer of the series, a two-run shot off Amir Garrett in the ninth that cut it to 5-4. Jared Hughes got the last two outs for his second save. The Reds are without closer Raisel Iglesias, who went on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday with a strained biceps in his non-throwing arm.

Nova had another tough time against the Reds, extending his streak into a new season. The right-hander lost his last start against Cincinnati in 2016 and went 0-4 in four starts last year, three of them at Great American Ball Park. He had a big role in his latest undoing.

Nova hadn't walked a batter in his last two starts, but opened the third inning by walking Castillo. He also had a throwing error on Scooter Gennett's comeback grounder that helped the Reds load the bases. Suarez hit his third career grand slam on a hanging slider.

"I'm just missing," Nova said. "In the first few innings, I felt really good. I got into that one inning, and I walk the pitcher to start the inning. On the groundball, I miss (retiring) the guy at first base."

It's been a rough month all around for the most experienced starter on the staff. Nova is 0-4 in five May starts with a 7.60 ERA.

"He's the healthiest he's been," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's just inconsistency. That's kind of where we are. He's doing everything he can to get himself in a better place."

Winker homered off Nova in the fifth inning for a 5-0 lead.

SLAMMED PIRATES

Suarez's grand slam was the Reds' second of the season. Gennett has the other — also against the Pirates. He connected in Cincinnati's series-opening 7-2 win on Tuesday.

HOT ROOKIE

Meadows is 11 for 25 in his first six major league games including two doubles, three homers and five RBIs. He had three hits Thursday — a single, double and homer.

HARRISON CONTAINED

Pirates leadoff hitter Josh Harrison went 0 for 4, a day after he had four hits including a game-winning triple in the 12th inning. Harrison missed 30 games with a broken left hand. In four games back, he's gone 8 for 19.

RIGGLEMAN'S RECORD

The Reds are 15-18 under interim manager Jim Riggleman, who took over when Bryan Price was fired on April 19.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Pirates: C Francisco Cervelli was available to pinch hit. He hurt his right hand while catching in the 10th inning of Pittsburgh's 5-4 win on Wednesday night and came out of the game in the 12th.

Reds: Joey Votto got a day of rest from the starting lineup, but pinch hit and drew a walk. He's 5 for 27 in his last nine games with seven strikeouts. His 1,480th appearance tied Dan Driessen for ninth on the Reds' career list. Frank Robinson is eighth with 1,502 games.

UP NEXT

Pirates: Joe Musgrove (0-0) comes off the DL and starts against the Cardinals at PNC Park as Pittsburgh begins a six-game homestand. Musgrove has been sidelined since spring training by a strained right shoulder. St. Louis goes with John Gant (1-1).

Reds: Sal Romano (2-5) tries to rebound from his worst start when the Reds open a three-game series in Denver. Romano gave up a career-high seven runs and six walks during a 10-0 loss to the Cubs on Saturday. The Rockies start Jon Gray (4-6).

Backed by a bunch of runs right away, Dylan Bundy dominated.

Bundy struck out a career-high 14 and pitched a two-hitter for his second complete game in the majors, leading the Baltimore Orioles over the Chicago White Sox 9-3 on Thursday.

"Man, it was fun," Bundy said. "Our offense gave us a pretty big lead today early, so just trying to attack the hitters with fastballs early in the count and try to get ahead as best I could."

Adam Jones and Trey Mancini hit solo home runs as Baltimore jumped ahead 9-0 after three innings. Jones and Manny Machado each had three hits, and catcher Chance Sisco drove in three runs for the last-place Orioles, who won for just the third time in nine games and improved to 6-21 on the road.

Although Bundy's heater was on, he had command of "pretty much all four pitches," according to Sisco.

"That gives you an idea of the repertoire he had today working for him — strong," manager Buck Showalter said. "That was a good old-school outing. You don't get to see many people carry their stuff that long."

Jose Rondon hit a three-run homer with two outs in the fourth for the first hit off Bundy. It was Rondon's second career homer and second in two days.

Earlier in the day, White Sox catcher Welington Castillo was suspended for 80 games by Major League Baseball following a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance. The commissioner's office cited use of Erythropoietin (EPO).

The 31-year-old Castillo was signed in the offseason by the rebuilding White Sox to help guide their young pitching staff. Barring rainouts, Castillo would be able to return on Aug. 24.

Bundy (3-6) had been roughed up in losing four of five previous starts, but sparkled once again in an afternoon contest. The 25-year-old right-hander improved to 2-1 with 1.32 ERA in five day games.

Omar Narvaez's single in the seventh was the only other hit off Bundy, who walked one and hit a batter. His other complete game was last Aug. 29 against Seattle.

Chicago manager Rick Renteria said his team wasn't fazed by the news about Castillo. The day belonged to Bundy.

"I don't see this (loss) being the result of the information that transpired this morning," Renteria said. "We just had a young man on the other side that's commanding the strike zone pretty good."

The Orioles sent 25 batters to the plate in the first three innings to build the lead off White Sox starter Lucas Giolito (3-5) and Chris Beck, the first of five Chicago relievers.

Giolito and Beck each walked three in the first three innings, with Giolito forcing in two runs on bases-loaded passes and Beck pushing across one.

"Today was just one those days where I didn't have it and didn't battle through it," Giolito said.

Giolito increased his league-leading walk total to 37, and wildness doomed the right-hander from outset as Baltimore scored four times in the first. Giolito issued three straight walks to force home Baltimore's first two runs. Sisco's single drove in two more.

When Giolito got the ball over the plate in the second, the Orioles hit it out as Mancini and Jones led off the inning with homers.

Beck replaced Giolito with one out in the second after Giolito hit Chris Davis with a pitch to put runners at first and second. After getting Alvarez to pop out, Beck walked Craig Gentry and Sisco to force in another run and make it 7-0.

RBI singles by Machado and Alvarez in the third upped Baltimore's lead 9-0.

Rondon launched his homer in the fourth after Bundy hit Yolmer Sanchez with a pitch and Daniel Palka reached on a third strike that turned into a wild pitch.

WELCOME BACK

White Sox reliever Danny Farquhar will toss the ceremonial first pitch on June 1 against Milwaukee. It will be Farquhar's first time back on the mound since he suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm during a home game on April 20 vs. Houston.

ROSTER MOVES

To take Castillo's place, the White Sox purchased the contract of C Alfred Gonzalez from Triple-A Charlotte. Chicago then claimed C Dustin Garneau off waivers from Oakland and optioned him the farm club. OF Charlie Tilson also was recalled from Charlotte on Thursday.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Orioles: OF/DH Mark Trumbo was out of the lineup for a second straight day after hurting his right knee sliding into second base on Tuesday. Showalter said Trumbo might have a precautionary MRI in Florida on Friday after the team travels to Tampa Bay for a weekend series. ... RHP Darren O'Day (hyperextended elbow) could get a cortisone injection on Friday.

White Sox: INF/OF Leury Garcia was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left knee sprain, sustained when he stole third base on Wednesday night. ... DH Matt Davidson (stiff back) was scratched for a second straight day. . RHP Miguel Gonzalez (right rotator cuff inflammation) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

UP NEXT

Orioles: Following Thursday's game, Showalter still hadn't yet named a starter for Friday's opener at Tampa Bay.

White Sox: RHP Reynaldo Lopez (1-3, 2.98) faces the Tigers RHP Mike Fiers (4-3, 4.57) at Detroit on Friday night.